Craven Pan­niers

Old Bike Australasia - - BLOW YOUR OWN -

Craven Pan­niers have been crop­ping up in re­cent edi­tions of OBA which re­minded me of a time when I had oc­ca­sion to visit their Lon­don fac­tory when I was an Aus­tralian work­ing in Lon­don in the late ‘60s. I’d had bikes in the past and al­ways had this idea that I’d buy one while in the UK and at­tempt the trip back home over­land. There was one prob­lem. My Queens­land li­cence had ex­pired while I was in UK and I had, op­ti­misti­cally, posted it back to Rock­hamp­ton po­lice sta­tion, ask­ing them to re­new it. They never replied. That meant get­ting a Bri­tish li­cence and then be­ing re­stricted to a 250cc ma­chine. 50 Pounds bought me a 250cc 1962 BSA C15, ba­si­cally a com­mut­ing bike and not ex­actly ideal for a long-dis­tance trek, but it did have two Craven Pan­niers, one with a miss­ing lid. I found the Craven fac­tory ad­dress in North Lon­don and went up look­ing for a new one. For years I’d seen those Craven ad­verts in the bike mags for the world’s lead­ing pan­nier man­u­fac­tur­ers, so I as­sumed the fac­tory would be some mod­ern, glass-fronted state-of-the-art af­fair. It wasn’t what I’d ex­pected but a small, nar­row fac­tory in a ter­raced row of what could have been Vic­to­rian-era work­shops. “I’m look­ing for a left hand pan­nier lid”, I told the girl be­hind the counter. “See old Fred out the back and he’ll find you one”, she told me. I found old Fred in the small back work­shop and he found me a lid. I’ve of­ten thought how typ­i­cal the fac­tory was of post-war Bri­tain when they made do. Even Mor­gans were then still be­ing built in a few old sheds out in Worcesters­hire.

The bike and I did even­tu­ally head east, criss-cross­ing Europe trou­ble free and stop­ping off in Is­rael for a year. I lost that lid on the au­to­bahn some­where be­tween Hanover and Nurem­berg. There was one mo­ment of panic when we en­tered Cze­choslo­vakia, then still locked be­hind the Iron Cur­tain. The mo­tor de­vel­oped some re­ally fright­en­ingly loud knock­ing noises which I thought might be ter­mi­nal un­til I worked out that the lo­cal stan­dard petrol was about 70 oc­tane and the con­sis­tency of kerosene. The pre­mium wasn’t much bet­ter but it stopped the knock­ing. I re­con­di­tioned the mo­tor in Is­rael, then not long af­ter the six day war, and with no roads out. I was of­fered the chance to work my pas­sage as deck crew on an Is­raeli freighter, Ei­lat to Sin­ga­pore, and took it, tak­ing the bike along. From Sin­ga­pore, we trav­elled down through the In­done­sian Is­lands, run­ning out of road in Bali. Here I re­luc­tantly sold the bike for US$40. I’d like to think that the lo­cals have treated the old girl kindly and she’s still go­ing strong. She de­served it, never hav­ing missed a beat all the way across. We never even had a punc­ture. P. B. Brown Rose­mount Qld

INSET RIGHT Eden Grove, Nth Lon­don, home to the busi­ness op­er­ated by Ken and Molly Craven. Mr Brown with his C15 (and Craven Pan­niers) in Bali.

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